Taxes, water, gridlock; County Commission candidates address issues during forum

ST. GEORGE – Candidates for Washington County Commissioner met with members of the area’s Rotary Club Wednesday morning to discuss their stances on topics facing the county.

Candidates included Dean Cox, former Washington County Administrator, Greg Aldred, an area businessman, and Josh Warburton, publisher of the Independent. Cox is running as the Republican nominee for County Commission, while Warburton and Aldred are running as independents.

L-R: Washington County Commission candidates Josh Warburton, Dean Cox and Greg Aldred at a forum hosted by the Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News
L-R: Washington County Commission candidates Josh Warburton, Dean Cox and Greg Aldred at a forum hosted by the Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

The questions started with the candidate’s stance on Proposition 1. The proposition is a ballot initiative that proposes a 0.25 percent sales tax that will take 1 cent out of every $4 spent in the county and put it toward the maintenance of transportation infrastructure, as well as add funding for public transit.

Supporters have said that funding for transportation infrastructure needs to be raised in order to better maintain roads and support continuing growth.

Without it, gridlock will increase as needed road repairs and projects will have to wait for funding through other means, or perhaps even be abandoned.

“I’m not for raising taxes,” Aldred said, “but I have to support this because there is a (funding) shortfall.”

Warburton said he would not be voting for Proposition 1, stating he believes the way the county collects and allocates funding for roads should be examined and reapplied accordingly.

Cox said he was still analyzing the issue.

“Personally, I haven’t decided, but I am leaning against it,” Cox said, adding that the County Commission, while in support of the gas tax increase passed by the Legislature last year, has not been supportive of the local sales tax option provided to counties through the same legislation.

Following on the topic of transportation was the Northern Corridor and where the candidates stood on that issue. They were also asked if they felt the proposed roadway violated agreements made between the county and federal government concerning the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

“It’s a very contentious topic,” Warburton said as he expressed disapproval of the proposed roadway.

At a forum featuring Washington County Commission candidates Josh Warburton, Dean Cox and Greg Aldred hosted by the Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News
At a forum featuring Washington County Commission candidates Josh Warburton, Dean Cox and Greg Aldred, hosted by the Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“I don’t think we need a northern corridor and it would be a violation of our standing agreements,” he said.

Both Aldred and Cox said they supported the need for an east-west corridor in the county in order to help fight future congestion and take the stress off of current transportation infrastructure.

Cox added that language in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 had language in it that instructed the Bureau of Land Management to look at possible alternatives related to the Northern Corridor.

That language itself is ambiguous, Cox said, yet he’s nonetheless in favor of looking at whatever alternatives may be presented.

On the idea of transferring management of the public lands from federal to state control, all agreed that the state’s potential $14 million lawsuit against the federal government was likely unwinnable.

As for the state managing the public lands itself however, Cox and Aldred supported the idea while Warburton did not.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Warburton said. “I think our federal agencies do a fantastic job.”

Differences between the candidates were more apparent when the issue of the Lake Powell Pipeline was raised.

Warburton does not support the $1.4 billion pipeline and cited studies from economists that claim the pipeline would cause local taxes to skyrocket in order to cover the resulting cost. In contrast, Cox supports the pipeline, yet added it needs to be a Utah project as the county can’t pay for it alone.

Aldred said he is currently undecided, yet said the state should look at alternatives such as negotiating with Nevada to possibly trade water rights in order to gain water from a closer source such as the Snake River Project.

L-R: Washington County Commission candidates Josh Warburton, Dean Cox and Greg Aldred at a forum hosted by the Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News
L-R: Washington County Commission candidates Josh Warburton, Dean Cox and Greg Aldred at a forum hosted by the Red Rock Rotary Club, St. George, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

When it came to the potential for a county animal shelter attached to the Purgatory Correctional Facility, the three candidates expressed their support for it, though differing somewhat on how to keep such a facility funded once it was built.

Cox said the county’s municipalities would need to chip in for the animal shelter, while also supporting the idea of a ballot initiative adding $1 to $2 onto the county’s property tax that would be used as a way to fund the shelter if passed.

Warburton agreed with the idea of a proposed ballot measure to supply funding to the shelter, yet added the county should also put money into the facility as it would be run by the county.

“Who doesn’t love animals?” Aldred said, and suggested that the shelter could be funded through the Washington County Fair as an alternative to a potential tax.

The candidates are running for Washington County Commission Seat A which is currently held by Commissioner Alan Gardner who did not seek re-election. He has served on the County Commission for the last 20 years.

The general election is Nov. 8, with early voting beginning Oct. 25. Polling locations can be found on the state elections website.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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Posted in General Election 2016, Government, Local, News, PoliticsTagged , , , , ,

1 Comment

  • godisdead October 13, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Sorry Mr cox. You seem like a nice guy, but you are a tool for the republican party. Whatever the party wants, you will support it. A good example was during the election for John swallow. Dean Cox was a very vocal supporter of John Swallow, organizing honk and waves at street corners. His support of Swallow, even though suspicions of Swallow’s integrity were in the media, should be a concern.
    With Dean Cox, it’s all about the republican party, and to hell with right and wrong or the citizens.

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